The Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) recently passed a resolution on the use of smartphones by students in classrooms across the province.

The resolution, which was presented at the ATA's meeting over the long weekend states that the, 'use of smartphones by students in Alberta classrooms during instructional time is prohibited to promote a focused, engaging and safe learning environment, except where teacher professional judgment identifies a pedagogical purpose, including but not limited to enhancing digital literacy and engaging with the curriculum in interactive ways; in instances where digital wellness education is being explicitly taught or applied; and for accommodating properly documented student medical needs.'

The resolution comes a month after the provincial government encouraged Albertans to voice their opinions in an online survey regarding cellphone use in schools. The survey has since closed. 

According to the ATA's news release, the organization has been researching the impact of technology use since 2012 through its participation in the Growing Up Digital Alberta project. Findings show that continuous connection via social media is associated with increased rates of anxiety, depression and lack of focus, according to Phil McRae, the ATA’s research coordinator.

“I think implementing some smartphone restrictions has the ability to change that trajectory for the better,” McRae said.

The ATA’s latest pulse survey of members found that 75 per cent of Alberta teachers would like to see a smartphone-free classroom environment. A number of Alberta schools and school divisions have already imposed their own restrictions, McRae added.

“Teachers are raising their voices on this issue and whatever provincial restrictions or policies come in place, we have to protect the judgment of teachers for pedagogical use and for their students who have medical or special exceptionalities,” McRae said.

The ATA also underlined that numerous jurisdictions around the world have imposed restrictions on the presence and use of cell phones within schools.

"This includes countries like Belgium, Spain and the United Kingdom; American states like Florida, Oklahoma and Vermont; and in Canada, the provinces of British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario."

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